How the Internet of Things (IoT) is Transforming the Retail Sector

The Internet of Things (IoT) is just one of many new technologies that are likely to transform the retail sector over the next few years. It sits alongside blockchain, FinTech, and VR as the subject of much speculation, promise, and uncertainty.

Amidst all the speculation, though, it’s easy to miss the fact that the IoT is already seeing widespread use in the retail sector. 

According to a recent report by Global Market Insights, Inc., for instance, the market for IoT in the retail sector is predicted to reach over $30 billion by 2024. In another report, Verizon has found that retail companies have already realised the benefits that IoT tech can bring to their consumer interactions. Specifically, 

  • 77 percent of retailers believe that IoT solutions can help improve customer experience, 
  • 89 percent of early-adopters in retail say that IoT enables them to gain increased insights into customer preferences, and
  • 77 percent of retailers say that IoT technology helps them to cooperate with partners in delivering quality products and services to their customers. 

What is the IoT?

Put simply, the IoT is a way of integrating the real world with the internet. Objects are embedded with sensors that can detect and store pieces of data about them, and this data can be accessed and worked with by machines and applications connected to the same network.

This is certainly a broad definition. However, it also suggests the sheer range of applications for the IoT, since almost anything can be connected to it, and anything can, therefore, be transformed into a ‘smart’ object that can be interacted with.

The retail sector has been at the forefront of the adoption of IoT technologies, and with good reason. Like many sectors, retail has been transformed by digital technologies. Unlike some other sectors, though, retail is concerned with the physical movement of objects. Since the IoT promises to integrate digital technology and physical objects, it is not surprising that retailers have been among the first to explore its capabilities.

IoT in the Retail Sector: 10 Key Examples

The capabilities of IoT technology are only beginning to be explored, and so giving an overview of just what the technology can do is almost impossible. What is possible, though, is to look at the ways that retailers are already using the technology. 

Smart Shelves

One of the most direct applications of the IoT is found in the ‘smart shelves’ that several retailers have begun to use. 

In these systems, objects in a store are tagged with an RFID tag. An antenna can read these tags and sends the location of each item to an IoT system. In this way, the physical location of every item can be tracked in real time, and this data can be used to inform inventory management software. This all feeds into more efficient stock analysis and automated stock retrieval - enter robot pickers and drones. Pretty smart, right?! [we’ll get on to robots a little later]

Beacons

Beacons are simple, low-energy Bluetooth devices that directly push notifications to customer’s phones when they are in range. Because they are so small, they can easily be attached to walls (or any other surface), and deliver relevant information to customers in exactly the context that you want them to receive it.

Though a relatively new idea, beacons are already seeing extensive use in the retail sector. BI Intelligence, for instance, predicts that the number of beacons installed in retail outlets is likely to grow from 96,000 in 2015 to 3.5 million in 2020. Swirl Networks Inc. found over 70% of shoppers say beacon-triggered content and offers increased their likelihood to purchase in-store. Beacons, too, are widely utilised in events and are especially useful for exhibitions. They can be used to monitor real-time traffic and help inform decisions to heighten audience engagement, drive action and lead to higher conversion rates.

Robots

People have been predicting that robots are going to revolutionise the retail sector for decades, but in recent years it appears that this is actually happening. Amazon’s dedicated Robotics lab has produced 45,000 robots to fulfill stock operations across their 300 global warehouses. This has enabled their warehouse operations to scale up and be adaptive/reactive to consumer orders. Target and Walmart are testing and utilising robots in stores to help stock shelves and take inventory to optimise the shopping experience for customers. Instore robotics assistants are being trialled as well, where they interact with customers face-to-face either through touch-screen or voice-recognition and help them with product selections and location. For this to be widely adopted a lot of “subject matter expertise” must be taken into account in training a robot’s operating systems. Softbank’s Pepper robot is a “household” name with it’s humanoid characteristics - Pepper drove a 70% footfall increase in the first week of a branch launch, with another seeing 13% increase in sales and 6x adoption of a new product. The novelty factor definitely weighed in on the spike and not necessarily down to improved services or customer experience here. Legitimate return may take another few years to see but any tangible ROI will propel adoption of similar robotics applications across relevant future-focussed retail organisations.

Digital Signage

Digital signage also relies on IoT technology but uses it to deliver bespoke ads to customers. In the most advanced installations, digital signs can even identify the gender and age of those walking past and can use this data to decide which advert to display. Digital signage can respond to external factors and react quickly to changing factors, making it both intuitive and relevant.

In less sophisticated set-ups, digital signs can query a customer’s smartphone in order to identify them, and then display ads or other information tailored to them.

Fast Registration At Events

Because the IoT seeks to integrate the real world with the digital one, some of the most exciting applications of the technology have been in corporate and consumer events. Using the IoT in these events not only provides attendees with a smoother, more convenient experience: it can also be used to impress upon them a brand’s values and willingness to embrace the latest tech.

One such example was Hilton America’s Leadership Conference in 2017, where each attendee was given a smart bracelet. This bracelet was paired with a profile containing contact information, and also contained an RFID chip. MCI has also utilised this technology to bring people together and allowing them to network in a frictionless manner by easily swapping contact information by touching their bracelets simultaneously.

Exhibition Tour

Another innovative use of IoT tech in retail events was showcased at Event Tech Live. Attendees at the event were issued with an ID card. So far, so normal. However, this ID card incorporated an RFID chip that could be used to interact with each exhibitor’s stall. Exhibitors could then choose what information would be uploaded to a visitor’s profile when they touched the badge to a receiver. Here we can see how IoT is impacting on the way brands communicate with their potential customers, paving the way for a more personalised interaction that will nurture sales.

Convenient Shopping Experience

Multiple banks are adopting the IoT system of contactless wearables to facilitate purchases. Consumers can leave behind their wallets and focus on the experience. From sporting events like the US Open, Formula One and football tournaments, where fans can enjoy frictionless purchases, to theme parks like Disney and Universal where customers can wait virtually in line and trigger water jets and light effects via their devices. 

Fashion giants such as Kate Spade, Fossil, Diesel and Michael Kors have all begun selling chic, fashion-forward smart watches and NFC in the UK has produced the first contactless payment rings. 

Events have also adopted this technology, such as Eurovision, where each attendee was given a smart wristband that was linked to their payment details. Visitors could then leave their cash and payment cards in their hotel room, and instead, use their wristband to pay for products. The same wristbands, in fact, could then be used at any contactless POS terminal in the world.

Wearables enable brands and customers to have simple and seamless transactions, through ease of payment and added enhancements like virtual queuing for a heightened retail experience.

Traffic Monitoring

The SC17 conference also used IoT in an innovative way. Attendees at the conference could be tracked as they moved around, and real-time heat maps were produced of where crowds were gathering. 

In the event itself, this technology helped the organisers to see which exhibitor stands were the most popular, and to quickly address any overcrowding issues that arose. However, several retail companies have since shown great interest in the technology, which may help them to see (in real time) where customers are gathering in a store, and to better plan the positioning of their products.

Real-Time Networking

The South by Southwest conference is another event that has been at the forefront of IoT. In this case, the conference used beacons to provide attendees with a list of other visitors in their vicinity, and some quick information on their job role and sector. 

The system was designed to allow visitors to quickly and painlessly make meaningful connections, and to streamline the networking process. It could also be used, however, to deliver bespoke messages as participants moved around the venue, drawing their attention to particular stands or products that might interest them.

It is not hard to see the value of a similar system in the retail sector: beacons could easily be used in a store to give customised recommendations to visiting shoppers and to draw their attention to items that they might miss otherwise. Likewise at a retail event experience, this system could be adopted to stimulate new connectIons and strategically match attendees according to their interests.

Smart Hotel Rooms

Marriott Hotels have used the IoT in order to provide truly personalised experiences for its guests. Guests can create a profile on an online system, through which they can set their desired room temperature, and even customise the images they would like to see in smart picture frames. Every time they visit a Marriott hotel room, their preferences are automatically retrieved.

These hotel rooms represent arguably the most sophisticated use of IoT in the hospitality sector, but again it is not difficult to see similar ideas appearing in the retail sector soon: it may even be possible, in the near future, to offer every shopper their own bespoke retail store, stacked with items that you know they will love.

The Future Of The IoT In Retail

So there we have it: 10 examples of the IoT, used in completely different ways, by completely different companies. Given the flexibility of the technology, this should not be surprising. It is also worth noting, though, that many of the most exciting applications of the IoT (as seen in the list above!) have been during corporate and consumer events.

This is no coincidence. 

Since the IoT ultimately aims to unite the physical world with the digital, it is natural that the most extensive use of the technology has come in those contexts where real-life customers meet the latest advances in retail technology: consumer trade shows.

IoT has also proved particularly popular in events because of the simultaneous rise in the popularity of experiential marketing. The IoT is still relatively new to most consumers, and as a result still has an enormous ‘wow factor’ when deployed and integrated into experiences correctly. For this reason, many retailers have chosen to test proposed IoT systems at events first, where they can reach influencers and gather feedback, before rolling it out across their wider retail platforms.

Ultimately, the IoT provides a powerful tool for retail brands to engage with their customers in more profound, personal ways. And so whilst embracing new technologies is always important, we should also remember that they are only valuable if they allow us to heighten the experience, connect and communicate with our customers more meaningfully.

We can help you to create experiences that showcase the power of IoT and increase the impact on engagement with your target audiences - start your transformative retail brand experience.

How Blockchain is Transforming Retail


The retail sector is no stranger to innovation and is often the place where the latest technologies make their business debut. In recent years, the sector has been at the forefront of the Brand Experience Revolution, and many brands have made extensive use of new technologies like VR, AR, and IoT to create immersive, engaging experiences for their customers. 

In this context, it is tempting to see Blockchain as just one new technology among many. But that would be a mistake.

That’s because Blockchain promises to bring about a far deeper change in the way that retailers do business than any other emerging technology. Rather than being an add-on to existing business practices, it represents a wholesale revolution in the way that retailers operate. 

As Marco lansiti and Karim R. Lakhani, Professors of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, put it:

“Blockchain is not a “disruptive” technology, which can attack a traditional business model with a lower-cost solution and overtake incumbent firms quickly. Blockchain is a foundational technology”.

This said, it’s also apparent that the full potential of the technology has yet to be realised. In 2019 we appear to be at a critical point when it comes to the adoption and applications of Blockchain. Because of this, many analysts like Scott Greenwell, the Creative Director for Unleashed Technologies, have argued that “we’re at a similar moment with blockchain as we were in 1995 with the birth of the internet: while we could conceptualise what the internet was, we did not fully understand how it would change our digital world”.  [Source: ASAE’s January/February 2018’s e-news]

Here we delve into what Blockchain is and the four key areas in retail that are being transformed by this technology.

What is Blockchain?

When most people think of Blockchain, they think of BitCoin and other cryptocurrencies. Whilst it is true that by far the biggest use of Blockchain technology to date has been in cryptocurrencies, the applications of the technology are far broader.

At its base, as Don and Alex Tapscott, Authors of Blockchain Revolution (2016), stated: “blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value".

The idea is relatively simple. When a customer wants to perform a transaction, they use specialised software to communicate this to a ledger. In contrast to traditional ledgers, however, the record of transactions in a blockchain is distributed across a large number of servers, each of which is able to verify their records against each other.

Animation based on: Alan Morrison and Subhankar Sinha, A primer on blockchain (infographic), PwC, Dec. 2016

Though at the moment, most Blockchain transactions concern cryptocurrency, almost anything can be traded in this way. That’s why the market size for Blockchain is expected to reach 7.6 billion US dollars in 2022. 

Critically, much of this growth is expected to come from outside the world of cryptocurrency. Blockchain has broad applications in various industries including Finance, Supply Chain, Security, Automotive, Internet of Things, Energy, and Healthcare. Uses of the blockchain in the healthcare sector, for instance, could be to securely store health records in a centralised database, and in industry, the blockchain could be used to track copyrighted and trademarked content and licensing rights.

But what about the retail sector?

Hilary Carter, Managing Director of Blockchain Research Institute (BRI) commented, ‘Just as blockchain technology is transforming other industries such as financial services, so too is it changing the game for retailers. 

‘The technology is particularly well suited to this sector because it enables new levels of trust and transparency in product supply chains for consumers - lettuce products for example - and creates opportunities to solve supply chain problems quickly, helping to mitigate financial loss’.

Blockchain in Retail: Four Key Applications

Deloitte’s recent report on Blockchain in the retail sector identifies four key areas in which Blockchain technology is expected to revolutionise retail: consumer relations, supply chain logistics, and payment infrastructure. 

Here at MCI, we would say that this is an almost comprehensive list, but also that it misses out on an important application of Blockchain technologies. This is the way in which the tech is also going to transform brand experience, by revolutionising the way in which corporate and consumer conferences and events are organised and realised.

Before we get to that, though, let’s take a look at the ways in which Blockchain is going to change retail for consumers, the supply chain, and in payment infrastructure.

Consumer

Many aspects of consumer retail experience are likely to be transformed and improved by Blockchain.

At the broadest level, this is because blockchain tech allows customer data to be stored in a way that is much more secure, open, and transparent than traditional systems. One of the reasons why customers are (understandably) apprehensive to share personal details via customer loyalty programs, for instance, is that leaks of these details are a common occurrence. Blockchain is far more secure than traditional ways of storing customer data and is likely to encourage customers to share their data with retailers more readily.

And with more data comes the opportunity for greater customisation. It is feasible that ‘smart’ loyalty programs based on blockchain tech will be able, in the not-too-distant future, to offer personalised, exclusive rewards and experiences to retail customers, as well as being able to alert on targeted product recalls.

As technology develops, it is even possible that one of the base features under which the retail sector operates – that of companies selling goods to consumers – could be overturned. Because the blockchain allows ownership and transaction details to be updated instantly, some analysts have argued that it may give rise to a new kind of ‘sharing economy’ based on shared purchasing and ownership, in which the traditional retailer disappears altogether.

Supply Chain

The supply chain is another area of retail promised to be transformed by blockchain. These are the areas in the supply chain that are most likely to be revolutionised by blockchain.

Source of data: “Blockchain in Supply Chain: Edging Toward Higher Visibility,” Chain Business Insights LLC, May 2017.

At the broadest level, the distributed ledger that is a basic feature of blockchain simply allows for greater integration when it comes to coordinating a network of suppliers and retailers. In order to do this, blockchain technology is paired with another important emerging tech, the Internet of Things, which also promises to transform the retail sector. Within a few years, it is feasible that every item moving through a supply chain will be tagged with a sensor that records its location, condition, and other information. This end-to-end supply chain will ensure total transparency on every stage of the product journey, allowing manufacturers to trace products from manufacturer and production to sale and delivery. All data will be stored on a distributed blockchain that is accessible to every company in the supply chain in real-time.

This next-level transformation of the supply chain need not be limited to B2B transactions either. Home delivery is quickly becoming the dominant way in which consumers receive their purchases but is reliant on a level of trust between retailer and consumer. The blockchain can provide this trust. Transparency of the supply chain will be vital in establishing brand trust; with fair trade welfare, sustainable sources and authentic provenance being increasingly important for consumers, retail brands will be able to verifiably demonstrate the consumer-to-business shared value through blockchain.

Lastly, even the contracts under which retail goods are sold are likely to be transformed by blockchain. One of the outcomes of the recent growth in cryptocurrencies has been the emergence of ‘smart contracts’. Originally designed to facilitate the sale of crypto securities, these contracts work by storing funds in an escrow system until both parties are satisfied. If run on a blockchain, these contracts eliminate the need for third-party moderation.

Payments and Contracts

A third area in which blockchain is likely to affect the retail sector is when it comes to payments and contracts. In fact, this is the major reason why many analysts see blockchain as a truly transformative technology because it directly affects the way that transactions are handled and overseen - blockchain promises to change the basic experience of buying or selling a product.

At the most basic level, this is because retailers are already able to take payment from consumers in blockchain-based currencies. This speeds up retail transactions and also helps both consumers and retailers avoid the costs involved with completing them via banks. 

Blockchain-based payment systems need not be limited to consumer-retailer interactions, either. It is expected that B2B transactions will increasingly be completed over blockchain and that this will bring the same benefits (increased speed and decreased cost) to business interactions too.

Finally, blockchain is also expected to improve and simplify consumer protection systems. By moving product warranties away from paper and onto distributed, cloud-based storage, it will be easier to keep these guarantees up-to-date and transferable. Several blockchain wallets already offer users the opportunity to store their warranties, saving both them and retailers costly administrative work.

Brand Experience and Events

Blockchain is set to greatly impact how retailers deliver brand experiences to their customers, whether through one-off events or by simplifying and customising the way in which customers interact with brands.

This is likely to happen in two key ways. Firstly, blockchain is forecast to change the way in which retail events are organised, ticketed, and run. Going further, the technology will also feed directly into the design of the kind of experiential marketing that is becoming standard in the retail sector. Consumer brand trust will strengthen thanks to blockchain and the extra layer of security it offers. Brands, too, can benefit from cost savings and efficiencies which can then be passed back to the consumer with lower prices and heightened personalised experiences.

Signs of these changes are already apparent. As Robin Lokerman, Group President of MCI, puts it: “MCI has seen blockchain and cryptocurrencies as a growing subject for programme committees of the many conferences we organise. Especially in the Financial Services, Healthcare and Law sector events, has this subject come up”.

MCI is at the forefront of this innovative technology - MCI Canada created a Joint Venture with Blockchain Research Institute to launch BRG, a new company focused on creating a global community on enterprise blockchain. In 2019, MCI delivered the Blockchain Revolution Global (BRG) meeting - the first truly worldwide enterprise leadership community for blockchain. The inaugural conference took place in April 2019 uniting the world’s leading thinkers, builders and pioneers to accelerate the blockchain revolution.

In the short term, blockchain is likely to be used mainly in the planning of large-scale events. As Corbin Ball, speaker and independent third-party consultant focusing on meetings technology, says, “the major use for meetings will be for large sporting and music events where scalping and ticket fraud is common”.

However, as retailers and marketers grow used to the technology, and begin to see it’s possibilities, it is also likely to be applied in far broader ways. It will allow, for instance, retailers to undertake strategic analysis to directly engage with target audiences and deploy relevant creative experience design.

In this way, blockchain will likely become part of what has been the largest transformation in retail in recent years: the emergence of experiential marketing to directly communicate with customers. The nature of blockchain technology means that the focus of marketing can move away from ‘demographics’ and rapidly advance towards individual customers.

The Future

The sheer range of applications in which blockchain can be used means that retailers will need to stay vigilant over the coming years. 

If you work in the retail sector, it is likely that you are planning to be able to take payments in blockchain-based currencies, or already do. Retailers operating with cryptocurrencies are positioned as forward-thinkers who are inclusive to their consumer’s various needs. 

Brigid McDermott, Vice President Blockchain Business Development, IBM states “blockchain solves business problems where trust is part of the solution—you can’t do that with a database.”

Blockchain offers you the chance to design more impactful brand experiences for your customers, whether this is through spectacular one-off events at trade shows or consumer expos, or simply through deeply customising the interactions you have with them at every touchpoint. 

The use of blockchain helps businesses to solve user experience challenges:

  • Increases customer retention
  • Quick and time saving for business and consumer
  • Secure
  • Reliable
  • Transparent
  • Customers have ownership and control over information
  • Responds to consumers' diverse needs

We’re ready to help you improve your user experience and influence change in your events - Get in touch today to discuss your brand event experience 

How are Brands Leveraging Festivals for Engagement?

The festivalisation of events is on the rise. Why? Because of how festivals make us feel. Attending a music festival reaps many psychological and health benefits including reducing stress and improving human connections. It’s no surprise that brands are allocating more marketing budget to event sponsorship at festivals and that engagement is a primary marketing objective. Festivals are a highly conducive environment for sparking positive psychological brand associations, thanks to its atmosphere. In fact, some report that ‘the festival experience is becoming more about the atmosphere and less about the line-up’. Read on to learn about the balance of a well-tuned festival ecosystem, the psychological effects of festivals and to see which brands are activating their audiences through immersive experiences and activations at festivals around the world.

The Psychology of Festivals

Balance is the key to a festival’s brand sponsorship ecosystem. A whole host of factors need to be considered when partnering brands to festivals, namely whether there is synergy between them and if they align to the overarching festival’s values, mission and vibe. What’s more is whether brands complement one another – each sponsor should play a part in satisfying the different needs of a buzzing crowd of festival-goers. Together the festival sponsors should harmonise and add value to the whole festival experience. How? By deeply understanding the target audience and gaining insight into how festivals affect the psyche.

festival emotions gif

According to research on music festival motivators, the most common reasons to attend are event novelty, escapism, and opportunities for socialisation. With removed social pressures and the weight of responsibility lifted from festival goer’s shoulders, festivals are a refreshing distraction from day-to-day life. Further, it’s well known that music has an incredible effect on the brain, releasing a hit of dopamine as a biological response.

Marcel Zentner (2017) studied the emotions caused by music, reverse engineering his approach to emotional identification. The research identified forty emotions in total, leading to nine categories: wonder, nostalgia, tenderness, transcendence, peacefulness, energy, joyful activation, tension, and sadness. Concentrated further, these emotions fit into three categories: sublimity, vitality, and unease. Brand experiences and activations work best when they tap into the mindset of their target audience and consider how they want them to feel, think and act. What feelings were evoked at this year’s festival brand experiences and activations?

Festival Brand Experiences and Activations

Aside from attracting global audiences to see the world’s most coveted show-stopping acts, British Summer Time, Coachella and Glastonbury offer serious brand sponsorship investment opportunities. Increasingly brands are favouring experiential marketing strategies to engage, entertain and activate customers on a more personal level. Here we explore and emotionally rate experiences designed for their exclusivity, personalisation and meaning using Zentner’s approach.

Exclusivity

The Coachella Valley Festival is one of the most sought-after festivals in the world. Known to attract celebrities, influencers and brands from the Forbes Fortune 500 list, Coachella creates the optimum setting for exclusive experiences.

This year saw innovations across fin-tech, FMCG, and tech as brands looked for new ways to get in front of their target audience and captivate their attention.

Calvin Klein’s festival activation was all about exclusivity and inspiration. A 1970s-style house named #MYCALVINS HOUSE was designed to physically extend the brand’s presence and personality. An opulent branded bathroom (complete with giant bathtub and bubbles), CK decked walk-in closet and bedroom with mirrored ceiling all made for a shareable social media-worthy experience. The activation was heightened more with the appearance of Billie Eilish and the opportunity to take away limited custom clothing.

EMOTIONAL VERDICT? Energy, joyful activation

 

Google, too, developed their multisensory Brighter in the Dark experience around exclusivity. Tech met music as Google teamed up with Childish Gambino to promote the Pixel 3 mobile in a spectacular showcase. Playing on the senses of sight and sound, attendees embarked on an immersive journey to ‘see in the dark’. The installation put the Pixel 3’s Night Sight Features to the test, highlighting its technological abilities in dark settings. Fans were also offered an exclusive preview of the artist’s AR app whilst at the experience – an additional enticement to excite revellers.

EMOTIONAL VERDICT? Wonder, transcendence, energy

Personalisation

British Summer Time, 5 – 14 July, welcomed a complementary group of brand partners to their festival including drink giants Heineken, Coca Cola and Bacardi but it was Tinder’s Festival Mode activation that got people talking. Ahead of BST Tinder launched a unique in-app user experience where users could add a badge to their profile highlighting which festival(s) they planned to attend. This stimulated new conversations and helped to bridge online and live connections. Tinder’s pop up featured the well-known flame along with a photo competition area and free giveaways including a set of festival tickets. The creative design was fitting to the spirit of BST and promoted Tinder’s new capabilities and fun brand personality!

EMOTIONAL VERDICT? Energy, joyful activation

TINDER ACTIVATION

 

TINDER ACTIVATION

 

Creating personal experiences for the individual in the masses can be challenging. Embracing individual differences is key – sensorial experiences that play on taste and smell are extremely effective. Known as olfactory experiences, the nose guides the personalisation helping to develop a unique, personalised experience. As taste and smell are strongly linked, brands could develop a bespoke cocktail, a summer festival scent or even imbue the air at your brand activation – allowing your brand to be tasted and smelt!

Neurobiologists at the University of Toronto found that “there is a strong connection between memory and olfaction — the process of smelling and recognizing odors — owing to their common evolutionary history. Information about space and time integrate within a region of the brain important for the sense of smell — yet poorly understood — known as the anterior olfactory nucleus (AON).

“When these elements combine, a what-when-where memory is formed”.

Designing a brand experience centred around the senses will forge a powerful brand association and sensory-rich memory. Our sense of smell is the most powerful trigger to memories – that coupled with taste and a soundtrack is set for an impactful brand experience.

Meaningful Experiences

The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts attracted 200,000 revelers in June and is set to grow again in 2020 with a further 7,000 tickets approved by the local council. The biggest festival of the world instills a real sense of community where ‘people come together for people and planet’. Glastonbury is dedicated to the environment and giving back to worthy causes – it’s a festival with meaning and conscience: Love the Farm, Leave No Trace. Some of the causes they support include WaterAid, Oxfam, and Greenpeace. What sets Glastonbury apart from other festivals is its non-commercial approach to sponsorship. Partners are carefully chosen for the value they bring to attendees and the overall experience. Here are a few of the chosen brands and charities that showcased at Glastonbury…

Greenpeace designed a seriously impressive sculptural experience called BEAM, drawing inspiration from the black bee colonies on Worthy Farm. The UK artist Wolfgang Buttress worked together with Greenpeace to create an experience like no other. Accelerometers (vibration sensors to you and me!) measured bee activity and transmitted these live signals to the installation through sound and light. The bee movements were transmitted and translated in real-time for festival-goers to experience.

EMOTIONAL VERDICT? Wonder, transcendence, peacefulness, energy, joyful activation

 

EE was the official communications and technology sponsor enabling festival-goers to stay connected. The tech giant established its presence with the emergence of 5G, a festival mobile app, and a recharge tent. EE’s approach was inclusive to everyone – they opened their charging stations to anyone on any service, and removed dead battery anxieties! This approach to sponsorship focused on convenience and what attendees needed and wanted in the moment. Rather than a ‘hard sell’ EE played the technological hero that attendees could trust to keep them in touch with friends and remind them about upcoming act times.

EMOTIONAL VERDICT? Energy, tension (release)

EE RECHARGE

 

David Ogilvy famously said, ‘The trouble with market research is that people don’t know what they feel, they don’t say what they think, and they don’t do what they say’.

People are unpredictable and traditional event formats no longer work, which is why festivals make for an interesting alternative format. The nature of a festival thrives on disruption, novelty, and fun. And as a result, brand experiences, too, thrive in festival environments. Human unpredictability plays to a brand’s strength at a festival because we behave differently – we’re out of our normal context, relaxed and open to experiencing a broader emotional range. Adding sensorial elements to the mix unlocks a deep emotional bandwidth and creates a rich memory, spiking audience engagement, increasing brand loyalty and raising brand awareness.

We’ve scratched the surface on some of the psychological effects of festivals and can identify with Rory Sutherland when he says, ‘Human behaviour is an enigma’.

It doesn’t have to be though! Whether you want to create an exclusive activation, a personalised experience, or a meaningful installation – we’re ready to help you leverage your brand and activate your audiences. Ready to crack the code?

The Future of Retail Experiences – How to Drive Brand Loyalty

The Future of Retail

It has proved challenging for the High Street recently with lacklustre sales and footfall in brick and mortar stores at a six-year lowThe convenience of online shopping has seen a huge increase in e-commerce transactions. E-commerce revenue in UK is expected to grow to 91.2 billion pounds in 2023; having achieved £65.7 billion in 2017. The rise of big retail events like Black Friday, Alibaba’s Singles’ Day and the upcoming Prime Day, are changing the way consumers purchase. Brands need to understand these shifts to offer more seamless and personalised shopping experiences.

The experience economy which took hold a few years ago saw the trend towards spending money on DOING things rather than BUYING things – as we like to call it experiences over things. The traditional approach to retail is failing the high street. Mega sales promotions, aggressive advertising and rewards programs may get people through the door to a point, but these short-term strategies don’t build the types of emotional connections that drive long-term profits and loyalty.

The problem is not that people have become lazier and defaulted to online shopping; it’s that brands have become complacent about making shopping in real life, “IRL” a worthwhile experience. More and more start-up brands are recognising that stores provide a direct platform to their customer base and are a huge asset. They have the power to deepen the customer’s relationship with a brand, to cultivate those strong emotional connections – ultimately increasing their lifetime value. It’s no longer about the price point but the emotive experience that will drive brand loyalty and retail spend.

Brands need to have the most compelling and relevant content and products as well as optimised and personalised shopping experiences now if they are to benefit. Here we look at what is driving these changes in the retail landscape and how brands need to evolve to stay agile and relevant:

 

Online and Offline Retail Experiences

Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, coined the phrase “new retail” to depict the increasingly blurring boundaries between the online and offline shopping world. Technological innovations are allowing us to see a synthesis of the digital and the physical with the adoption of Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Certain brands are embracing interactive technology to provide consumers with more memorable, customised shopping experiences.

In 2020, Generation Z are set to account for 40% of all consumers and will influence nearly $4 billion in discretionary spend. Brands need to understand how to reach this influential audience and build brand advocacy now to benefit from this upward trend.


Blending in-store and online shopping experiences will be key to the survival of brick-and-mortar retail. In a recent study by Criteo, 
80% of Gen Zers said they looked forward to shopping in stores when they had time, but 75% do most of their shopping online out of convenience. Most Gen Zers prefer having the option to touch and feel products before purchasing and to use their smartphones while in-store. They also enjoy unique product displays and ways to test out products in stores. 

Beauty brands are leading adopters in terms of AR-apps that enhance the shopping experience. Through combining augmented reality and computer vision, customers are able to try on makeup virtually at home or in-store, and share through their social media channels, all while simultaneously collecting behavioural data for brands. For example, Estée Lauder-owned Smashbox partnered with Modiface [now acquired by L’Oréal] to use customer eye tracking insights to heat map the areas on a screen receiving more attention by users. This helps Smashbox understand which features are the most interesting and iterate on its website to make the beauty shopping experience more relevant for consumers.

Interactive experiential pop-ups and ‘smart stores’ with virtual greeters and facial recognition payment options will provide shoppers with the personalisation and customisation that they seek.

Creating a new retail experience

It costs more today to reach your online target audience, than it has ever before. As more and more businesses are popping up online each day, you can guarantee advertising costs on Google, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are going to continue to increase. That’s not to say cut all social activity, like Lush did earlier this year. It is creating that omnichannel experience that combines the online and live seamlessly. Shifting from transactional selling to emotive experiential shopping.

 James Wallman, a trend forecaster and the author of Stuffocation: Living More with Less, in which he charts the move from possessions to experience.  “If you think about the 20th century, the big dominant value system was materialism, the belief that if we had more stuff we’d be happier,” says “The big change to what I call experientialism is more about finding happiness and status in experiences instead.” Studies also suggest the anticipation of an experience has a crucial, additional value. In a 2014 paper called Waiting for Merlot, psychologists Amit Kumar, Thomas Gilovich and Matthew Killingsworth showed how consumers derive value from anticipation, and that value tends to be greater for experiential than for material purchases. That feeling lingers longer, too, tied up as it with memory.

Audiences are actively seeking memorable, authentic and shareable brand experiences around products. Having a consistent brand narrative that offers an experience at every touchpoint will cut through the noise, heighten engagement, increase brand advocacy and drive results. In a Gallup report, consumers with strong emotional connections with retailers will visit their stores 32% more often and spend 46% more money than customers without emotional bonds.

 

Personalisation from Big Data and AI-based recommendations

From recent research, 64% of consumers report that they feel like retailers don’t really know them. This is why many retailers have increasingly started to leverage AI to personalise the shopping experience. AI is able to learn through user behaviour and its algorithms get better over time – the rise of the AI stylist in the fashion industry is going to be huge – UK e-commerce startup Thread, which tailors recommendations based on a user’s behaviour and allows direct purchasing, has received Series B funding from H&M.

But AI doesn’t end with product recommendations. AI is being implemented across the entire shopping journey, particularly with chatbots to support shoppers. The likes of Alibaba and Amazon will have incredible data and buyer insights that will help brands create new products, as well as trends that will feed into their strategies. Timely and personalised product recommendations during these “FOMO” shopping events and experiences will be a key way that brands can demonstrate that they understand their customers’ needs and preferences. Find out how AR and VR can be utilised to enhance brand storytelling and brand experiences.

Maximising “Micro-moments”

 Think with Google started talking about the different types of touchpoints that consumers experience (on average) 150 times a day, as “micro-moments”. Audiences will often turn to their mobiles during these shopping micro-moments.

With the augmented ease of payment through mobile by users scanning their fingerprints and faces on their mobile devices, ‘in-the-moment’ purchases are ever on the increase.

It is critical for retail brands to have a solid mobile-friendly offering, and to ensure that their apps provide that seamless shopping experience that users seek and come to expect.

The retail moments that matter – the micro moments you need to factor into your brand narrative and the customer journey

Shopping micro-moments often start when people have a need or desire to purchase a product and they begin thinking of ideas. This leads to research and eventually purchase. These moments tend to fall into one of three categories:

  • I-need-some-ideas moments happen when people have general awareness of the product category they’re interested in, such as living room furniture, but they haven’t yet narrowed down their choices to an exact product.
  • Which-one’s-best moments—a.k.a. consideration moments—happen when people turn to their phones in short bursts of activity to compare prices, brands and specs, and read product reviews from trusted sources.
  • I-want-to-buy-it moments happen when the research is done and it’s decision time. People make a choice about which brand or retailer to buy from, and whether to buy online or in-store.

How can brands maximise the opportunity from these micro-moments? Behavioural analysis, timely and personalised recommendations, through emotional storytelling  and the immediacy of direct product brand experiences. The more relevant and authentic your brand offering is the more brand advocates will spend and engage with your brand even when presented with available alternatives.

Shoppable Social Media as a significant driver for retail

As more shoppers turn to their phones to shop, we expect to see more of that happening through social media feeds. Multiple social platforms are raising their game to maximise advertising revenue from retail brands, but some channels are gaining the traction over others. It’s expected that Instagram will grow 3x faster than the growth of overall social traffic, which translates to a 51% year-over-year increase in traffic to retail sites. Meanwhile, Facebook will see traffic referrals to retail sites shrink by seven percent as Instagram begins to own more traffic share.

Alongside referral traffic to retail sites, Instagram is working on a standalone e-commerce app called ‘IG Shopping’ which will allow its 1 billion monthly user base  to browse collections and make in-app purchases. Instagram will be leveraging its 25+ million business accounts to take on e-commerce competitor Shopify.

Last year Snapchat launched a new Discover channel called ‘Shop and Cop, which highlights app-exclusive e-commerce deals from chosen brands and enables on-platform purchasing of those items, so you can snap up the deals without leaving the app. The ephemeral usage of the app may prove challenging for brands to establish lead conversions from the platform.

The future….

Brand experiences will provide a key way to engage with target audiences through online and live experiences. Audiences expectations and values are changing; they want meaningful experiences over things. This provides brands huge scope to create compelling ‘onlive’ experiences whether as part of a product launch, pop-up, online or in-store experience. Authentic brand narratives will also build crucial emotional connections with consumer audiences – lasting brand affinity is based on personal feelings and emotive engagement and not on logical, short-term price point relationships.

This is the era of ‘New Retail’ where brands must focus on fulfilling the personalised needs of each consumer through emotive transformative brand experiences. Start your brand experience journey now and find out how we can help you engage with your audiences more meaningfully.

1. Blurring of online and offline

Audiences are seeking hybrid experiences that blur the boundaries of online and off-line – they still want to test products, engage with brands directly and for their experiences to be personalised. 

2. Creating a new retail experience

Consumers want brands to engage with them authentically, and they want to be active participants in their shopping experiences. Shopping is no longer transactional; it needs to be an emotive experience.

3. Personalisation from Big Data and AI-based recommendations

Technology like AI and AR can create more personalised customer journeys through targeted product recommendations as well as digital interactive product sampling either in-store or online. Behavioural analysis and tailoring of retail experiences will establish stronger brand affinity.

4. Micro-moments

Anticipating these retail micro-moments and conveying an authentic brand narrative, that addresses each touchpoint, will build a more emotive relationship with your audience. The more emotionally invested your customers are, the more they will choose and spend on your products and experiences over available alternatives.

5. Social Media as a significant driver for retail

Choosing the best referral channels like Instagram will bring significant growth for retail brands. Social media is evolving into e-commerce platforms and increasing ‘mobile-only’ and ‘in-the-moment’ shopping behaviours.

Contact - Create your brand experience

How are AR and VR Transforming the Brand Event Experience?

Our experience of reality has changed.

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) powerfully influence how we experience and interpret our environments. Consumers now interact with brands and indeed immerse themselves in them, enabling deeper, more meaningful connections.

We regularly speak with event managers and brand marketers who are searching for new, innovative solutions to target brand apathy and disengagement. Here we explore how AR and VR are transforming brand event experiences and champion the brands who are using technology to break barriers and create lasting impact.

Why you need to use AR and VR for event experiences

Research and analysis by Statista, IDC, and Goldman Sachs (presented in a great infographic by NewGenApps), suggest that by 2020 more than a billion users will be actively engaged with AR applications.

Out of the two technologies, AR is easy to scale, easy to use, and easily widespread. All you need to enhance the real physical environment for your event attendees is a smartphone and WiFi, and they’re away! AR is coined to completely redefine the way that consumers interact with brands according to Ogilvy’s Alfonso Marian and Angela Fung, and Bart Jenniches from Google. It’s an effective alternative to advertising; it integrates brand experiences into everyday life building loyal relationships between customers and brands.

VR takes people-brand connections up another notch. Suspending reality, the environment and almost time itself, VR creates truly immersive user experiences in a navigable 3D world. To experience the power and beauty of VR, your attendees will need specific headsets, which limits the scalability roll-out but increases hype and exclusivity. It’s big business with Statista predicting that AR/VR will expand drastically with 2022 forecasts eclipsing $192 billion.

Now that 5G is on the scene, we can see the use of AR and VR skyrocketing. 5G’s arrival promises supercharged bandwidth speeds and reduced latency, enabling AR/VR to work to their full potential at events and experiences.

What to Use AR and VR for at Events

Inform 

Using AR at events and experiences enables brands to present new products in an effective and interactive way to their audiences. After all, according to the Centre for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), 92% of trade show attendees say their main reason for attending trade shows is to see new products being featured, and it is hard to put a price on the ability to give them a full virtual tour of a new product.

Educate

Attention spans are plummeting with the average adult attention span totalling 8.25 seconds. Yep, that’s right. Shorter than a goldfish.

Educating the workforce or creating the optimum learning environment is challenging when combating distraction, disengagement and even boredom.

A solution?

Break from the traditional learning setup and introduce AR and VR to your employees. This can be implemented in many ways from using virtual environments to bring together a global workforce online; creating specific training environments to coach your employees on best practice; to using gamification and crafted scenarios to test out key learnings and enable more dynamic collaboration.  

Inspire

The other huge advantage of using AR and VR at brand events is to engage, inspire and entertain your attendees. According to data presented by the EventTrack: Event & Experiential Marketing Forecast & Best Practices Study, 87% of consumers say events are more effective than commercials, largely because brands can use experiential techniques (such as AR and VR) during events to make a direct, emotive connection with their customers. The VR market continues to be driven predominantly by the gaming market, with 43% of VR’s $1.2B of software revenue derived from entertainment.

Irrespective of your motivations to engage, inspire or entertain using AR/VR, these technologies have the power to enhance your attendee’s experience and help nurture genuine meaningful connections between brands and people.

How brands are using AR and VR in events

EE

EE launched its 5G service in May 2019 with a striking fan engagement campaign, illustrating the power of AR and VR when used with 5G. Filmed on 18 May at the FA Cup final, the campaign showcases the benefits of super-fast connectivity, even within a large and busy environment.

Combining elements of AR and VR, EE created an immersive AR environment complete with a tunnel into Wembley Way. While VR headsets enabled viewers to immerse themselves in Wembley Stadium and enjoy all the action from the comfort of their homes.

Ford's Virtual Car

One of the most inspiring examples of AR in events has been Ford’s recent approach to motor shows. The brand has recently taken to building complete virtual models of their new cars, and these are integrated into an impressive AR app.

Rather than relying on a real-life car on a stand, as most manufacturers still do, Ford can use AR to give attendees a full virtual tour of their latest offerings. Guests can see inside the cars, and even take a look under the bonnet. The experience can be showcased anywhere and easily replicated across different territories.

Ford’s application of AR technologies has been one of the most successful, and one of the most mentioned, examples of recent years. This has been partly due to just how impressive the AR experience they are offering is, and they have clearly invested a lot of capital in the AR techs they are deploying.

However, Ford’s approach also highlights another great advantage of AR at events: that when talking to a tech-savvy audience who already know a lot about your products, AR is an effective and elegant way of presenting technical details that would otherwise be lost in the small print.

PepsiCo

Pepsi unveiled a new #Summergram campaign on Instagram harnessing the power of AR. For summer 2019, Pepsi bottles will come with different QR codes that will unlock a campaign filter when scanned with a smartphone. Each filter and AR Giphy sticker forms part of the overarching campaign with the tagline “Grab Summer By the Bottle”. The metaphorical play on words of grabbing summer illustrates the blurring of AR and reality, as consumers seek to change the reality around them. Pepsi playfully brought their AR #Summergram characters to life by kick-starting the campaign in the US with physical supersize inflatable characters, namely a flamingo and crab.

The drinks giant carefully considered the advertising placement with a younger target market in mind and chose to gamify their campaign with AR to boost sales, popularity and hype. Interestingly, Pepsi has moved their advertising from Snapchat to Instagram. Instagram is considered more strategic because it allows brands to simultaneously increase their followers and online brand presence compared to Snapchat.

These AR campaigns demonstrate how brands are increasingly pursuing new technological approaches to engage with their customers, whether it’s feeling more connected (EE), informing about new products (Ford), or driving sales with fun gamification (Pepsi).

Samsung

Samsung collaborated with NASA to bring the moon and stars a little closer to earth. A 4D lunar gravity VR experience was created (flight suit, harness and all) to allow users to take their first steps on the moon. This visual and physical experience takes users to new heights as they see and feel the effects of gravity, thanks to outstanding design work from Samsung and NASA’s Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS) team who worked on recreating the actual sensation of walking and floating in space.
Zach Overton, Vice President of Consumer Experience & General Manager of Samsung 837 and Galaxy Studios commented, “At Samsung, we are driven to push the boundaries of innovation and inspire consumers to do what they can’t”.
“We are proud to bring to consumers the combination of our powerful mobile VR headset and our innovative work with NASA to launch this lunar experience and bring the sensation of walking on the Moon to life.”

Red Cross

VR is increasingly being utilised to train military, defense and those working in hostile, high risk environments. Mentally preparing for pressurised situations and critical decisions can be grueling especially if trainees have not yet experienced a similar situation first-hand.
The Red Cross designed an impactful VR experience called ‘The Right Choice’ to illustrate the bleak reality for Syrian families affected by war. The footage was produced in Lebanon, Beirut and closely resembled the damage inflicted in Syria. Featuring Syrian actors who actually fled the conflict brings a poignancy and reality to the VR experience. Built for Google Daydream, the VR film is also compatible on smartphones.
Bleak, stark and incredibly powerful, ‘The Right Choice’ fully immerses participants into an alternate reality experience – one that is a genuine reality for many.

Facebook

At the F8 Conference in May 2019, Facebook announced its plans to take VR a step further with the development of full-body virtual reality avatars. Currently a work in progress, Facebook aspires to create avatars that move like real people. Their developers are working to replicate the minute movements created by hair, clothes and skin to the point where there is a carbon copy digital version of a person. Facebook Reality Labs' research manager, Ronald Mallet revealed "We're still years away from this kind of technology in consumer headsets" but it is work in progress.
With these future innovations on the not-so-distant horizon, the scope of VR is set to enhance dramatically. Personal brand experience opportunities will diversify to perhaps include digital copies of brand influencers, spokespeople or celebrities too. An immersive experience replicated so closely that you’d be pushed to distinguish from reality.

The marriage of technology and creativity

AR and VR are intensifying brand event experiences. Deepening brand immersion significantly further, brands can now elevate their customers visually and experientially. It’s an incredibly exciting time for brands to embrace disruptive AR/VR marketing to inspire and engage at events. Are you ready to embrace new technologies at your brand event experience? Contact us to make it happen, and bring your creativity to life, virtually.

How To Maximise Your Strategic Brand Presence at Mobile World Congress 2020

24 – 27 February 2020: we’re sure you’ve got the dates marked and ring-fenced in your calendar for the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry, Mobile World Congress 2020.

In 2019 109,000 visitors attended Mobile World Congress from 198 different countries, 7,900 of which were CEO’s. Mobile World Congress is the premier and most important date of the calendar year for leading, global tech companies and up-and-coming tech start-ups.

Bringing together the international technology community, Mobile World Congress provides the optimum environment to engage in high-level networking, meet with hot prospects, increase strategic brand exposure, and importantly show off your innovative arsenal of tech products and services.

We’re eight months away in the planning for Mobile World Congress which means there’s never been a better time to get ahead of your brand’s strategy planning! In this article, you’ll find valuable insights about planning your event exhibition strategy, how to create a meaningful experience for your potential pipeline and target customers, as well as helpful, actionable tips to get you started. Let’s crack on…

Learnings from Mobile World Congress 2019

Our Experience team were onsite supporting clients in 2019 and returned with a wealth of key takeaways, trends and ideas to enhance brands’ exhibition presence.

Stand design is crucial. Gone are the days when pull up banners, gimmicks and poorly designed stands are acceptable. Your stand needs to capture potential customers from the get-go. We found that the most effective stands pulled audiences in by creating a sense of intrigue and curiosity, fun moments and news-buzz-worthy tech. They also maximised opportunities for visitors to co-create content, all relating to their products and services, which they could easily share through their social networks. Everything about your exhibition design from the stand material right through to the lighting and screen projection height needs to be considered. Believe us when we say that every touchpoint is important to the attendee experience. Leave no element of your stand presence to chance – design with your audience in mind.

Engagement and user experience should sit at the core of your strategy. In 2019, 59% of MWC19 attendees held senior level positions. The people in attendance are key decision makers – your exhibition stand needs to engage and resonate with them. At MWC19 we saw many a case where brands had invested time and money on their stand design only to be let down by their stand representatives. It was a shame to see so many empty stands or worse, visitors being actively ignored. Stand representatives absolutely need to be trained with a key message that they can return to at any given point. Our advice: send your best people in – your brand advocates – who can effortlessly interact and provide excellent customer service. Explore all our key takeaways and stand design advice in our article, Experiencing MWC19.

Mobile Technology MWC 2020

Hot trend predictions for Mobile World Congress 2020

5G is transforming event experiences and opening up a horizon of online possibility. 5G was beginning to make small ripples at MWC19 – this time we expect it to come into full force. It’s undoubtedly the largest fundamental change in the telecoms industry right now, and with many of the big providers updating their networks in 2019, 5G will be well embedded by the time MWC20 comes around. Very few brands had access to actual 5G capabilities last time, so we confidently forecast brands will make full use of supersonic fast connectivity at the next congress.

5G is opening up the tech arena for AR and VR. Both powerfully influence how we experience our environments and can be used to transformative effect in a product/services exhibition environment. AR and VR enable you to showcase your latest product or service in an engaging and immersive way. Create an opportunity to develop a deeper level of customer engagement: one where visitors will take away an impactful, positive experience and a heightened understanding of your brand; all adding to elevated brand loyalty.  

VR AR Technology for MWC 2020

Planning for success

Exhibition space at MWC is in high demand and comes at a premium too. It’s vital that your brand can justify the ROI from exhibiting – whether that’s tracking leads and prospects; reporting on qualitative and quantitative stand engagement; or scoring PR coverage.

But how can your brand plan for success? It all starts with a strong exhibition presence strategy.

A robust plan with clear objectives, a defined target audience and compelling messaging are just some of the winning ingredients you need. It’s well worth reading our MWC handbook – 10 Tips To Get The Most Out of Exhibiting At Mobile World Congress to give you some solid advice from our MD and seasoned Experience Designer, Kim Myhre.

Knowing your audience and who you want your customers to be is essential. Your strategy will grow concentrically around these personas. Consider not only who they are but what you want them to feel, think and do after engaging with your exhibition stand. Engagement starts before MWC20 – consider connecting with visitors ahead of time whether that’s through pre-scheduled appointments, personally reaching out to potential leads or casting the net wider with a social advertising campaign. 

MWC20 is the catalyst industry event which should jump-start the rest of your sales and marketing activity for the calendar year. When planning your strategy look ahead to MWC20, MWC21, even MWC25. How does your exhibition presence strategy and objectives correlate with the short, medium and long-term growth plans for your tech brand?

MWC Brand Experience

Tips to get you started

We hope we’ve got you thinking and fired up to go! Here’s some parting tips to get you started – contact us for more strategic and bespoke consulting specific to your brand’s needs.

  • Know your target market
  • Know your competition: you’re battling for attention against over 2,400 other exhibiting companies
  • Know the exhibition space: there’s 120,000 square metres of exhibition and hospitality space. Ask where is your brand positioned, use the space to your advantage and think outside the box
  • Aim to create an event experience that’s personal, participatory and memorable

Ready to level-up? We’ve over 24-year’s combined experience of creating and (physically) building impactful, unique stand experiences at Mobile World Congress, and we love bringing brands closer to their customers.

Let’s start your experience journey together and maximise your strategic brand presence, supercharge growth and audience engagement at MWC20, and all the years that follow with stand-out strategy.

All You Need to Know About Event Agencies

From experience innovation to brand storytelling, our MD Kim Myhre offers insights from his extensive global experience in event management to share how an event agency works and explain its role in creating transformative brand experience events.

This interview was in collaboration with Event Academy.


 

What does an event agency do?

What we’re here to do is to understand what the client’s need is, to ask all the right questions up front so that we really break that down into something that we can reply and respond to.

Then to deliver something that achieves those objectives for the least amount of money and the least amount of heartache. That’s what all those skills and talents are here to do.

How do you create a brand experience event?

I used to use this example of how brand experiences create expectation within. I used to hold up my Apple phone and I would say, “can anybody tell me what this brand is?”

Everyone would say, “oh, it’s Apple.”

I say, “okay, we’re going to an Apple event, what’s the venue like?”

They would say, “oh, it’s somewhere cool.”

“Is it a young crowd / old crowd?”

“It’s a young crowd.”

“Are they in jeans or suits?”

“They’re in jeans.”

“Are we eating chicken or sushi?”

“Sushi.”

So, brands bring strong attributes of every component level of the experience. It’s not just the speaker, it’s not just the signage. It’s how the whole thing comes together in one choreography of experience.

That requires many hands and many different skills, some of them basic planning, some of them more creative, some of them are more client management but they’re all important and they’re all interlinked. Not one part of that team can successfully deliver the experience.

What are the job roles within an agency?

The entry-level roles in agencies like this are – there’s lots of different ones. In fact, we have an internship program that we run in the summer. I think we had someone here this summer working on our strategy team who’s studying Egyptology or something.

So I think there’s lots of opportunities to come in, in the strategy, in creative, account management, operation, and production. There are lots of different opportunities to get involved.

On the creative side, we’re obviously looking for people who have some talent in the areas of digital and technology, and understand how social media works. We’re finding lots of young people having terrific skills in that area compared to old guys like me.

Then of course, in the area of strategy, people who have worked in any kind of planning or research role where they’ve developed personas of target customers. They’ve brought insight from the industry and the different research. We use that to help design experiences that really focus on the very specific attributes and requirements of audiences. It’s been really, really important and we’ve got lots of young people coming to that area.

Then of course, the production area where, in the end it comes down to, as I say, chairs and tables, and drayage, and curtains and carpets. At some point, we have to set up these experiences. There’s a lot of support required in doing that and we use a lot of freelance talent to do that. We also bring in lots of interns and there’s lots of entry-level opportunities there.

Then, of course, there’s the whole area of account management. For those people who actually like dealing with complicated clients, and we have those, there’s lots of opportunities to get in and work with clients, respond to their needs, get to know them, build relationships with them and help interpret their requirements.

What makes a successful event?

“Teamwork is really important. Everybody having the same goals, everybody covering each other’s backs, everybody understanding that in the end, we are working for the client. That’s really, really important.

You may like to draw things in a circle and the client may like them in a square. You have to learn to compromise and work with your client and build those kinds of bridges. I think everybody on the team here, many of them very experienced in this area, know how to do that.”

Creative vs Data: The Evolution of Entertainment

Entertainment is changing from the content and creative, to the way we consume it. But how exactly are audiences influencing entertainment?

And what effect will this have on the way we deliver content within events?

Shifting audiences

The media ecosystem is rapidly evolving. Rather than targeting content at markets, producers now must tap into audience insights and create content that they’ll be sure to consume – or risk extinction.

Extreme, you might say? When we look closely at viewer’s behaviour we can see that a whole host of factors are seismically shifting. In recent research led by Ampere Analytics we can see that Netflix and Amazon Prime audiences are hungry for three prominent genres: Drama, Comedy and Sci-Fi. Using data driven insights these streaming giants can focus on creating on top performing content that viewers crave. Crime and thriller programmes are on the rise, so Ben Stiller’s latest release might hit the sweet spot of this growing trend.

Netflix’s Upcoming Programme by Genre (257)

netflix figures

Data provided by Ampere Analytics

Amazon Prime Video’s Upcoming Programmes by Genre (97)

Data provided by Ampere Analytics

We’re sure you’ll agree that one of the beauties of streaming is its accessibility – the fact you can stream anywhere, on any device, at any time that suits you. It’s no longer about waiting for the next airing of your favourite TV show; we’re digitally liberated and free from our broadcasting shackles.

It’ll therefore come as no surprise that there are more subscriptions in the UK to the likes of Netflix, Amazon and NOW TV than ‘traditional’ paid-for TV. OFCOM reported that these online streaming services reached 15.4 million in Q1 of 2018, overtaking paid-for TV at 15.1 million. This is the first time that streaming has overtaken and whizzed by in the fast lane, waving euphorically at paid-for TV in the rear mirror! And we can’t see it changing any time soon.

The knock on effect of this means that the same content expectations and audience consumption habits apply to the world of events – expectations have never been greater in terms of personalised, convenient and accessible content. Watch a live keynote on your mobile from elsewhere in the venue, catch up on key interviews whilst eating lunch, or review the highlights of the day on the way home. The speed at which we can access content is paramount but so, too, is the device. Events need to think mobile first to ensure that content is easily navigable and fully optimised for all platforms.

The benefits are indisputable. Event live streaming and catch up reach a far larger global audience than those who physically attend, meaning more revenue, more visibility for partners and sponsors, and real-time online interactions. Not to mention that the content can be recycled, reused and re-shared – extending the content’s lifecycle.

Snackable content is on the rise

In a time starved world we’re seeing a rise in short, snackable content lasting a mere 15 minutes. Audience’s attention spans are altering and so must event content. Shorter sessions disrupt the traditional event model and reflect the audience’s changing content digestion.

47% of all mobile-video viewing time is consumed on content less than 20 minutes long says video platform provider, Ooyala. Instagram stayed well ahead of this curve and launched IGTV in June 2018; rivalling YouTube, verified users can upload videos ranging from 10 – 60 minutes.

As viewing habits shift from TV to online we see an equal shift in the way people consume entertainment and content. Rather than watching one episode of a series, we’re skipping ahead and binging. Netflix reports that users spent 100 million hours a day watching content!

Big broadcasting houses like the BBC are spotting this trend in their own viewing figures, particularly in younger audiences as the iPlayer’s popularity spiked by 151% (from 1.5 billion to 3.8 billion programmes accessed per year) between 2010 and 2016.

The entertainment industry is responding to a shifting audience market; a streamlined and enhanced customer experience is key to retaining membership and views month after month.

Data has a better idea

Technology as a matchmaker

Technology is developing a reputation as a matchmaking enabler. We know what we like, and so does the power of AI. It’s the perfect recipe for a personalised customer experience.

Online streaming providers also benefit from this content matchmaking affair. Machine learning offers intensely rich data insights which all help to develop highly targeted and unique marketing personas.

It’s a simple equation: user’s scientific data + crafted entertainment = personalised customer content experience.

The likes of Netflix capitalise on this data to create storylines and engaging entertaining concepts. Netflix Original is driven by these insights and it’s seen the launch of worldwide hits like Orange is The New Black and Stranger Things. The whole customer journey is considered from your most popular viewing times, to your favourite device.

An incredible 15 million viewers tuned into Stranger Things 2. How did Netflix do it? AI promoted ST on the home screen to viewers of the series and potential prospects; it launched on the Friday before Halloween (ensuing a major binge weekend); and the storyline was even set during Halloween. Needless to say it’s also a sci-fi thriller and what else would we choose to watch as the nights begin to draw in!

Nascent interactive alternative endings like Black Mirror are shaping the future of customer content experiences. The work behind these seamless, HD quality productions is no mean feat! Hundreds of hours in production and content creation will go into the making of interactive storyline endings. This will open up more opportunity for creative risks and give an even deeper insight into customer psychology.

Event content can figuratively take a leaf out of Netflix’s book. Audiences should be the focal point: influencing the content and defining the entertainment.

Disrupt the traditional content format and hand over the reins to your audience with the use of interactive event gamification and alternative session endings! Some call this format an unconference when in actual fact you are just providing them with a choice, an opportunity to proactively select what they want to hear and engage with. Not only will this liberate the flow, it will also increase engagement and create a lasting memory – which is what events are all about!

Audience Entertainment

Content creation game changers

Producers and content creators are facing new challenges and equally new opportunities. There’s an innate fear that data will trump creative, and that content will only be created based on consumer behaviour. On the flipside, it opens up the possibility of producing truly spectacular, disruptive content which breaks the norm and cuts through the noise.

Responses to a reshaped media landscape

How will the entertainment industry transition to a reshaped media landscape? Carolyn McCall, ITV’s CEO, remarked that ITV has “communities of fans that want to have a deeper relationship”. Traditional media giants need to compete with streaming services and offer direct-to-consumer services. ITV’s answer is to launch an augmented streaming product, so watch this space!

Evolving audiences: evolving content

Audiences are defining the way that content is created, consumed and digested – and the demand is ever growing. Now is the time to work smart with technology, breakthrough with unique content, and firmly fix our gaze on the customer content experience journey.

At MCI Experience, we believe that a new approach to content is essential – one that makes all content personal and authentic.

Thinking of changing up your event and its content?

Top 5 Examples of AI Used in Retail to Enhance Brand Experience

AI is transforming the retail sector in a huge variety of ways. Some brands are using AI technologies to streamline supply chains; others are using these technologies in more sophisticated ways to provide bespoke recommendations and shopping experiences for their customers.

The numbers are hard to ignore. Business Insider predicts that AI will boost profitability in retail and wholesale by nearly 60% by 2035, and online mega-retailer Amazon attributes 55% of its sales to its AI-driven recommendation engine.

AI can also be a powerful driver of customer engagement, either through chatbots or other forms of AI interface. In turn, these interactions are a powerful way of driving sales: according to another report by Business Insider, customers who interact and review online with retailers are 97% more likely to make a purchase.

AI is particularly important for large, online retailers, where it can be informed by data on customer interactions, and be scaled to provide improved customer experiences to as large a customer base as possible. However, retailers who rely on physical shops are also making use of AI technologies, and bricks-and-mortar retailers still make up a significant percentage of the retail sector: a report by National Retail Federation recently showed that 79% of consumers make at least half of their purchases in-store.

Today, we’re going to look at some of the most successful and innovative uses of AI in the retail sector. Some of these systems are designed to improve and streamline basic functions of the retail business, such as supply chains. Others aim to offer more complex and bespoke services. What they all have in common is that, by using AI to improve any part of a brand’s operations, they contribute to improved brand image and positive brand association.

H&M’s Smart Supply Chain

H&M, as a fast-fashion retailer, relies on agility. The brand has to keep ahead of the trends curve, of course, but it also needs to make sure that the right clothes are available in the right stores. A few years back, you could walk into any H&M store, from Helsinki to Hong Kong, and you would find the same clothes. Today, each store stocks a different mix of clothes. 

That’s great for consumers but also greatly complicates the supply chain: not only do multiple and complex shipping orders need to be processed, but this supply chain also needs to react in real time to changes in demand.

H&M has overcome these challenges using an AI system that analyses sales at each store, and predicts what will sell well in each location. The same algorithms that power this supply-side system also have direct benefits for customers and brand image because H&M has integrated them into its app. As a result, the app can make bespoke recommendations to each customer, based on their previous purchasing history, their location, and (of course) what’s on trend that month.

Starbucks’ AI Barista 

Starbucks faces different challenges to those of H&M but they have also overcome them via AI technologies. During the morning rush hour at the coffee giant, customers used to have to wait in line to order their coffee. You’ve been able to order your coffee in advance on the Starbucks app for some time now, but more recently the chain launched a voice-activated app that relies on AI technology.

The success of the app is a good example of a basic principle of app design: understanding the actual needs of the customer. It is also an example of a truly useful application of AI. Adding a voice control feature to most apps would be unnecessary, but Starbucks appear to have understood that during the morning rush hour their customers would appreciate one less thing to do. An AI-driven app interface therefore adds genuine value to their customer-focused offer.

Uniqlo Can Read Your Mind 

One of the most innovative and impressive uses of AI in the retail sector has been the ground-breaking work of Uniqlo, a clothing brand, in this sector. The company has used AI technologies to drive their purchasing and marketing decisions for some time now, but have also recently launched more spectacular applications of the technology.

One of these is the UMood kiosk, which has premièred at several of the chain’s most high-profile stores. These kiosks show customers’ clothes in a variety of styles and colours, and measure their reaction to them via neurotransmitters. Customers do not need to push a button, or even talk: their brain waves are enough for the kiosk to make recommendations.

Uniqlo’s kiosks sound like science fiction, but show just how much is possible using state of the art AI technology. Crucially, they also incorporate a spectacular element that is missing in more mundane applications of the technology. Humans have been able to recommend clothes for each for quite some time, of course, and so the value of the kiosk is partially based on just how weird (and entertained) customers feel while using it.

Walmart’s Dependable Robots

Given the size and dominance of Walmart in the US grocery market, it is no surprise that the company, who is the largest global retail employer, is leading the way when it comes to deploying AI. Though the robots used by Walmart are not as spectacular as some of the technology on this list, they are undoubtedly useful.

These robots slowly move up and down the aisles of Walmart’s biggest stores, scanning the shelves for missing items. This might sound like a pretty basic task for a robot to do, but recognising real-life objects is in fact an ability that AI researchers have spent years trying to achieve. If one of Walmart’s robots detects a missing item, it can then log a request for it to be re-stocked, again by the night-shift robots.

This use of AI is a good example of another basic principle in the deployment of this technology. Ultimately, the value of AI does not lie in its ability to replace humans; rather, it is best used to automate repetitive tasks that humans find boring. Using robots to do what they do best, prediction and analysis, frees up humans to do what they do best: creativity, improvisation, and empathy.

Neiman Marcus’ Advanced Search  

Google image search has been around for so long now, and is so widely used, that it is easy to forget it relies on advanced AI technology. It’s also surprising, given the utility of this functionality, that it did not find its way into the retail sector until now.

Neiman Marcus is a luxury department store in the US, and has been one of the first to use image recognition software in its apps. The Snap. Find. Shop. app lets customers take pictures of clothes or other items that they see when out and about, and then uses image recognition systems to recommend similar items carried by Neiman Marcus.

Again, the value of this app is that it addresses a genuine problem for customers. In this case, it is super difficult to find a particular lamp, for example, by typing into Google ‘short green lamp with gold frilly bits’! Searching via image is much more intuitive, but until recent advances in AI technology has been beyond the reach of most brands.

Events, Brand Experience, and AI

Depending on your brand, it might be that some of these applications of AI in the retail sector are directly applicable. Even if they are not, we hope that they’ve given you some idea of the breadth and range of what AI can do. 

All of these examples also point to a broader value of utilising AI: when it comes to brand image, AI technology positions you as forward-thinking and innovative brand at the forefront of the sector.

If you’ve planning to develop an AI-driven installation or app, it’s important that you carefully consider how you will launch it to market. Here, we have one piece of advice: make a song and a dance about your new offering. Most of the examples above were launched during spectacular events. Doing so has a number of benefits. It provides a strong platform from which to promote your new service to a targeted and engaged audience. Allowing attendees to personally trial the AI software at the launch will create a real buzz which is bound to score plenty of online coverage on social media. This audience interactivity increases brand loyalty and will extend your product showcase legacy, resulting in higher adoption rates.

The Human Touch

Finally, however, a word of warning. AI technologies come with an inherent risk of overuse, in that customers can become frustrated if you automate absolutely every element of your brand experience. This is particularly true for millennials who want a personal touch. Customers value the convenience of AI-driven assistants, certainly, but there are times when they want to talk to a human being. Technology is an enabler but not a total replacement. 

For bricks-and-mortar retailers, achieving this relies on a number of factors that are familiar. Hiring the right staff, and making sure they are well informed, should be the start. For online retailers, giving a human face to their website is a little more difficult. But here at MCI, we have a solution to that: why not organise a brand event? This can be themed around the launch of an AI service, promoting this to customers and allowing them to use it in advance. Why not create an immersive experience to reward your loyal customers or internal employees? We’d love to collaborate on your next retail brand experience, get in touch to start your experience journey.

How Fintech Marketers are Using AI to Improve Brand Experience

Banks have had a tough time over the last decade. Though the financial effects of the crash of 2008 are slowly fading away, more subtle problems persist. One of these is the widespread perception of financial services brands as aloof, and disconnected from the needs and lives of their customers.

Given this, it is no surprise that the Fintech start-up sector is booming: one forecast suggests that the compound annual growth rate of the sector will top 74.16% from 2019 through 2025. In this context, many people are trying to predict the future of fintech. There is little agreement about this, with some suggesting that the growth in cryptocurrency will transform the sector, and others that more ‘traditional’ services such as insurance will see the most growth.

There is one prediction, though, on which most experts agree: AI technologies are (and will) transform the industry. A survey by Mediant, for instance, puts AI and Machine Learning as the innovation that will have the largest impact on Fintech in the next five years.

Many brands are already using artificial intelligence to build better customer experiences. IDC predicts that global spending on cognitive systems will reach $31.3 billion by 2019, and Accenture found that AI could double economic growth rates by 2035 and boost labour productivity by 40%.

In short, Fintech and AI seem like a perfect fit for each other. In this article, we’ll explore how Fintech marketers are adopting the power of AI to inform and propel brand experience. This can be done at every stage of customer engagement: marketing, offering personalised services, and improving event experiences.

Marketing

The use of AI in marketing is motivated by something of a crisis in the industry. People are getting better at avoiding ads they don’t want to see. Millions of ads are ignored every hour by consumers, record numbers are using adblocking technology to cut out unwanted noise and evidence is mounting that people crave meaningful experiences, not marketing speak.

AI offers a way to potentially reduce this problem, because it can precisely target ads. ‘This is linked to the unique ability of AI to understand and interact with individuals in a highly personal manner based on a deep knowledge and understanding of their unique attributes, not just the ones brands think they know based solely on demographics and surface data, Stephen Upstone, CEO of LoopMe, told Forbes. Ultimately, AI can help to continually optimise marketing, because these systems can make suggestions based on what actually works following holistic analysis, rather than on what brands think they ‘know’ about their marketing strategies.

When it comes to the Fintech industry, AI has two huge advantages. One is scalability: Fintech offerings typically require large numbers of customers in order to reach profitability, and this requires conducting large marketing campaigns on limited budgets. The other is that the finance industry suffers, more than most other industries, from a perception that it is out of touch with the needs of its customers. AI-driven marketing can relieve this problem by pushing ads that are truly personalised and relevant.

Fintech Mobile app

Personalisation

Personalisation of customer experience should not stop at marketing, however. ‘AI has a role to play at every step of the journey and every stage of the funnel’, says Celine Saturnino, Chief Commercial Officer at Total Media, and as a result AI is also transforming every stage of the customer experience by allowing Fintech companies to offer personalised services.

In fact, personalisation is one of the reasons why the Fintech industry is growing so rapidly. Millennials, in particular, increasingly want a personal experience from brands, and AI technologies can greatly improve the agility of Fintech brands to offer truly bespoke services to this key demographic.

Ideally, the development of new products and marketing should be integrated into a seamless workflow. When used correctly, AI can help in both processes: providing insights into the way that customers are using services, then targeting marketing to core demographics, and finally tracking which campaigns resonate with which audiences.

Chatbots and Personal Assistants

A more extreme example of the personalisation in the Fintech industry is to provide customers with personal assistants driven by AI technologies. Chatbots, for instance, have been around for a while, but have huge advantages in the Fintech sector.

This is because financial services are generally very complex, and as a result the UIs developed for financial apps and services tend to quickly become complex. AI technology can help to reduce this complexity by offering customers a personalised interface. According to Jeff Orr, the research director at ABI Research: ‘The value might be in customer satisfaction, in training methodologies or in systems of deployment; but the overall benefit is clear’, AI-driven interfaces ‘create a new way for brands to engage with audiences’.

A more advanced use of AI technologies in Fintech is to provide financial planning tools for customers. Several large banks have been building intelligent bots to help their customers plan their finances, and the ease of use of modern AI interfaces mean that even smaller companies can now start to do the same. These bots can help customers save money, plan their next big purchase, or even make large investment decisions all at the convenience of the customer.  

Improving Event Experiences

Fintech marketers use events to a greater degree than other sectors because they know that events and experiences provide a powerful platform from which to launch AI applications. The reason for this is that Fintech startups typically need to gather start-up capital quickly, and inviting potential investors to an event is a highly effective way of engaging with them. Secondly, events can help to connect Fintech companies with their customers, and thereby dispel the problematic perception that financial companies do not understand their audience.

When it comes to events, AI can help in a number of key ways. The first is in improving customer experience. Chatbots can be used as registration assistants, for example, allowing guests to easily register for an event and find the information they need. They can also be used to make suggestions to guests regarding networking opportunities, allowing guests who share particular interests to find each other without working the room.

For event planners and marketers, AI can also be used to ease the workload of organising a large event. Integrating AI into marketing strategies can greatly improve their efficacy: up to a 20% uplift according to Saturnino. Chatbots, by responding to guest queries on your behalf, can free you up to focus on more critical aspects of your event. AI techs can also monitor footfall and feed live sentiment analysis from your event, allowing you to be agile and make adaptations in realtime plus compile metrics that will greatly improve your ability to plan future events.

The Dangers of AI

For all of these reasons, utilisation of AI in the Fintech sector is likely to continue to grow exponentially in the coming years. There is, however, a ceiling. Whilst many customers value the speed and efficiency of chatbots and other AI-driven interfaces, they also value human interaction. This means that the over-use of AI technologies comes with a risk: that companies will accidentally create a perception that they are distant and robotic.

For this reason, some in the AI community have argued that we should start to think about AI not as a replacement for human contact, but as an accompaniment to it. Mickey McManus, a pioneer in the field of collaborative innovation, pervasive computing, human-centered design and education, recently posted a YouTube video in which he explored this idea. ‘We need to explore the idea of humans and machines playing together like jazz improvisation’, he said, where machines do the things they are good at, like metrics and prediction, but in a way that allows space for the inherently human qualities of passion, improvisation, and empathy.

Brand Image and AI

AI is transforming marketing across almost all sectors, but has particular advantages for Fintech brands. These technologies can help Fintech marketers to target more relevant and timely marketing, allow start-ups to develop personalised products, and connect with their customers via personal assistants and events.

The ideas above all focus on what could be called the ‘behind-the-scenes’ applications of AI: helping customers to plan their finances, targeting them with relevant messaging, or simply making your events more streamlined. However, there is also a subtler advantage of using AI in branding: make a show of it. Embracing new and exciting technologies is an effective way of signalling your brand values, and demonstrating to your customers that you are a company willing to embrace innovation and progress while empowering them.

One of the best ways of doing this is to integrate AI into your events. Interactive, AI-driven activities that engage with audiences typically draw huge crowds at product launches, annual conferences, or trade shows, and can be a powerful signal to potential customers that your brand is both innovative and at the cutting edge of technology.

Are you ready to embrace AI at your next fintech event? Let’s collaborate on a creative brand experience strategy to improve your customer engagement. Start your brand experience journey!